Fire Prevention Begins in the Park Before Sparks Fly

Yellowstone fire crews are hard at work protecting buildings in the park, even though no fires are burning there now. Because of the heavy snowpack, and unusually wet summer, there has been only one fire start in Yellowstone so far.

The fire season is just starting, and the fire fighters are getting ahead of it.

Our cameras captured the start of a huge fire in Yellowstone in 2003.

The East Fire, also called the Cub Creek Fire, was sparked by lightning in the middle of the night. More than 17 miles of forest inside the Park’s East Entrance was scorched.

While the park usually has more than a dozen fire starts every summer, this year.

Yellowstone Fire Management Officer John Cataldo said, “We’ve only had one fire start this year, and it was human caused.”

But, the park’s firefighters do not want to be surprised by human caused, or lightning caused fires this year, especially in the dense forests surrounding Yellowstone’s northeast entrance. They’re thinning the trees and vegetation in 34 acres at the entrance.

Cataldo pointed out how dense the forest is nearby, “So the area I’m walking through now is an area that hasn’t been treated yet by the fire crew and as you can see there’s limbs on these trees all the way down to the ground, where the fire can move from the ground into the crowns.”

People who work at the Northeast Entrance live in housing in the forest, just above the entrance station.

Other park workers live there, too. The Park’s fire managers know now is the time to fight the threat of fire, by clearing the ground vegetation, and thinning the trees, before there is a threat. They call it creating defensible space..

Fuels Specialist Zac Allen explained, “So it gives us more time were a fire to occur to protect someone’s house.”

Allen has encountered areas that were properly prepared before.

“I was very happy to see that, because it saves a lot of time, a lot of work.”

And, it may save the lives of the firefighters protecting the homes, in the Park, or anywhere.

He said, “It just reduces that risk and the amount of time, pressure to do something around someone’s home. Definitely can save a life.”

The downed trees will not be wasted. Some will be used for tent pads at campgrounds. The rest will be given away as firewood to people who get permits from the park.